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Prison visits cancelled across Ireland to avoid potential coronavirus outbreak

Prisons have been placed into lockdown in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Irish prisons are closed to visitors (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish prisons are closed to visitors (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish prisons are closed to visitors (Niall Carson/PA)

Prison visits have been cancelled across Ireland to try and avoid the potential of an outbreak of coronavirus.

Prisons have been placed into lockdown in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

It comes after the Irish Prison Service (IPS) freed inmates on temporary release in recent weeks.

The number of prisoners released on temporary release at the beginning of March was 305, which increased to 589 by Thursday.

It is understood that the IPS will release further inmates over the coming weeks to help curtail any spread of Covid-19.

On Friday the IPS said that all family visits to prisons will cease from Saturday.

All future visits to prisons will be over video calls with arrangements currently being made to introduce visits by video calls early next week.

This change, the IPS said, does not impact professional visits.

The IPS is working to implement the technology necessary to provide the new process.

In a statement a spokesman for IPS said: “In addition to assisting the Irish Prison Service in its efforts to prevent the potential introduction of Covid-19 into a prison setting, these electronic visits will also negate the need for visitors to gather in the visitor centres at each prison.

“This is in line with the recommendations announced this week by the Taoiseach regarding the need to people to desist from gathering in groups of more than four people.

Record Scottish prison population
The IPS is asking retired prison guards to consider coming back to work (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“That announcement also recommended that individuals should only undertake essential travel at this time, by providing electronic visits the Irish Prison Service are able to facilitate vital contact between prisoners and their families while protecting them from the need to travel.

“The sheer volume of people entering and exiting our prisons on a daily basis mean effective infection control and vigilance is absolutely essential.

“Our prisons are home or the place of work of over 7,000 people on a daily basis.”

The authorities have also asked retired prison staff from all grades to register their interest in returning to work during the health crisis.

The statement added: “Therefore having information on those of you who wish to make themselves available to support our efforts to maintain prison operations would be extremely helpful, as we plan for the worst and hope for the best.

“Retirees who express their interest will be contacted if their skillset, availability and geographic preference match with the emerging needs of the prison service.

“This means we are responding to needs as, where and when they arise. We cannot predict where the need will arise.”

PA